Our kids have done incredibly well earning college credits during high school. We allow them to take on college-level studies and courses instead of high-school level, so that they earn both college credit and high school credit.

This is a path many families would choose if they were aware of this option.

Some students can complete their entire degrees during high school, as several of our own teens have done. This is an option that works well for students who can meet their education goals with a General Studies or Liberal Arts major.

Students pursuing a science major (engineering, nursing, etc.) still get a huge head start by earning all of the credits that will transfer straight to their degree plan at their chosen college.

Here’s how these options played out as each of our kids reached high school . . .

How We Saved Over $319,000 on College (and we’re still saving!)

Our first son chose to pursue a law degree, so his bachelor’s degree could be an accredited degree in any subject.

He chose General Studies with a concentration in Literature and History from Charter Oak State College. At this time, he could complete his undergrad degree entirely by exam (this was prior to several of Charter Oak’s current requirements).

Between the ages of 15 and 17, he took CLEP exams, DSST exams and the GRE Literature in English Exam to earn 123 credits and his accredited Bachelor of Arts degree.

When he graduated from both high school and college in May 2004, we had spent $3,100 on exam fees, proctoring fees, and Charter Oak tuition.

Looking back at 2004 costs for attending a public, four-year college in Texas, a traditional on-campus college education would have cost about $12,000 per year. So instead of spending about $48,000, we spent $3,100 for a savings of $44,900!

Our second son spent 6 years (age 15 to 21) earning the 121 college credits for his Bachelor of Science in Individualized Studies with a concentration in Business completed in May 2011. He also took a one-semester detour through the University of Chicago.

Let me add that these two brothers earned numerous awards as competitive NCFCA debaters and speakers, one undertook learning Arabic and together they traveled to the Middle East, one became an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), and they both volunteered numerous hours with several organizations including outreaches to Iraqi refugees. I tell you this so you know that my kids are involved in other activities besides study!

Cost breakdown of our second son’s degree: 17 CLEP exams at $77/ea, CLEP proctoring fees of $340, 12 DSST exams at $80/ea, DSST proctoring fees of $240, an AP exam at $83, junior college classes – $1,713, $350 for books, and COSC’s required courses and fees for $2,589. Total cost $7,584.

Since he did not apply any of UChicago’s credits toward his degree, I’m not including the $13,000 spent on that one semester.

At that time, the cost of attending the University of Texas from Fall of 2009 to Spring of 2013 was approximately $96,000. So we saved another $88,416! Yes, $7584 for his entire degree and $13,000 for ONE semester!

At this time, our second oldest daughter wanted to pursue a nursing degree, so she took both college-level exams and junior college classes to earn her prerequisites (both core requirements and many of her electives).

She then transferred all her earned credits to her preferred university, Mary Hardin Baylor, here in Texas and entered their nursing program to complete her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).

Today, she has completed her masters in nursing (FNP). She saved thousands of dollars in the overall cost of her BSN, but because her college path was more traditional than not, I’ve not included any of her costs or savings in my calculations.

One of our daughters wanted to pursue a law degree, so she followed much the same path as our first son, earning her Bachelor of Arts (General Studies with a combined concentration in Literature, History, and Psychology) between the ages of 13 and 18.

Like the others, she studied at home and passed college-level exams. The college credits were accumulated over those years and then transferred to Charter Oak State College when she was close to completing the requirements and ready to graduate.

And once again, I awarded high school credit along the way as she completed her studies in each subject.

She went on to The University of Texas Law School (#9 law school in the US) at age 18 and graduated at age 20 (she spent her 21st birthday sitting for the Bar Exam!).

She graduated from high school in May, 2011. The following four years (fall 2011 through Spring 2015), if spent at a public institution, would have cost, again, about $96,000. However, her accredited bachelor’s degree, earned by self-teaching and taking college-level exams, cost right at $5,650 and prepared her to go right on into law school and skip four years of undergrad work. A savings of $90,350. And the best part? ZERO dollars in student loans for her as well!

Our most recent college graduate is 21 years old and is one of one of the youngest certified teachers in Texas.

She graduated at age 17 from Charter Oak State College in 2016, earning a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with a concentration in History. She is a full time kindergarden teacher in our local school district.

Her degree costs were much the same as the others, but here’s a breakdown of our most recent college experience…

– She took quite a few more classes at the junior college than the others did mainly because we thought she would want to work as a Physical Therapist Assistant. That didn’t turn out to be her passion, so we transferred those courses to Charter Oak – some to satisfy core requirements but most were used to satisfy elective requirements.

– She chose to take College Algebra as a class instead of taking the College Mathematics exam.

– She satisfied Charter Oak’s science lab requirement (a fairly new requirement by COSC) by taking Anatomy and Physiology at the junior college.

– She took three Excelsior College exams (which are little more expensive) to earn some of her Upper Level credits.

– And then, even though she earned her bachelor’s degree in May 2016, she decided NOT to graduate from high school until the following May, so she could compete an additional year in a high school sport.

The cost for her degree was about $8,500. If she had only completed high school work during her high school years and then spent four years in a public college, her degree would have cost her about $105,000 over the next four years. So a savings of $96,500.

Instead she graduated high school with a college degree as well, she’s debt free, AND is spending the next four years earning a salary instead of going into debt.

What a completely different picture than most kids her age. And it’s only because she chose a non-traditional path for her college degree.

Another daughter graduated from high school last May (2019) and will complete her Bachelor of Arts degree this May (2020). She is 18 years old. She took Biology and Speech at the junior college, and she earned the remaining credits by exam. The cost of her BA degree has been about $8,500, while the cost of attending a four-year public institution and earning the SAME degree would be $112,000 (If UT-Austin keeps their current rates for the next four years). A savings of $103,500!

So these five teens’ accredited bachelor’s degrees cost us very close to $33,350. If instead, our kids had taken the traditional four-year college path, these same degrees would have cost approximately $424,000.

So, along with saving 20 school years (that’s four years of school each for five teens), we have saved $424,000!

Now, you’re absolutely right in that there was NO WAY we would have paid that amount! So what we’ve actually accomplished is having saved each of these five teens from entering their adult lives with an average of $84,800 in student loan debt each.

Plus, they all five finished their degrees. Traditional students increasingly are dropping out of college and entering the workforce in order to make payments on the credit card balances they’ve accumulated because they’ve both gone to school and lived on borrowed money.

Not the bright future most high school graduates dream of!

Would you like to learn more about this process and see how your family can do it, too? Sign up for my free online workshop, How to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree during High School?

We’ve been so happy to help our kids with this option, and I absolutely LOVE helping other families take this same or similar path to college graduation.

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